RA Magazine Autumn 2013
Issue Number: 120
Sarah Whitfield ponders the mystery and meaning in the Belgian Surrealist’s breakthrough years – the focus of a show in New York
Unlike recent exhibitions of René Magritte, a show at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, this autumn – which travels to Houston and Chicago – concentrates on the Belgian artist’s earlier work, bringing together an impressive number of masterpieces, many of which have not been seen together for several decades.
René Magritte, 'The Human Condition', 1933. National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of the Collector’s Committee C Charly Herscovici/ADAG P/ARS, 2013. From the start Magritte was a singular Surrealist. He was a natural rebel, torn between becoming a member of the Paris Surrealists and a reluctance to submit to the authority of André Breton, who dominated the Surrealist art scene in Paris.
As time has shown, however, it is Magritte who now exerts the authority. He is one of the 20th century’s most widely reproduced artists, not only because his images have a punch and an immediacy but because his grasp of mystery and ambiguity is as seductive and as unfathomable now as it was at the height of the Surrealist movement. The show focuses on Magritte’s early experiments with themes rooted in anxiety, such as displacement (as seen in The Human Condition, 1933) the double image (An End to Contemplation, 1927) and metamorphosis (The Red Model, 1935). These paintings deal with the deceptive world of appearances in which the ordinary is transformed into the momentous and the disturbing.
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